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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

AE6: Undulating Roof/Column

Undulating roofs are fairly common in contemporary architecture these days, at least for commissions with a budget that can accommodate one. But undulating roofs that incorporate the column structure into the undulations are less common, though certainly more interesting. The blurring of the boundaries between the two functions (protection from the elements and keeping the building standing), stemming from the continuity of the construction (if not the actual structural system), make for very appealing spatial wrappers.

[Nicolas G. Heyak Center in Tokyo, Japan by Shigeru Ban]

The top floor of Shigeru Ban's Nicolas G. Heyak Center (the home of Swatch Group Japan) in Tokyo's Ginza district features a woven lattice roof that foreshadows his Centre Pompidou Metz set to open next year. This smaller-scale version is less integral with the rest of the building than the European museum branch, but the complexity of the structure and the compelling space it creates make the trip to the top rewarding. The reflective flooring helps to emphasize the roof-column relationship, mirroring its appearance as a tree and its canopy or a twister dropping from a cloudy sky.

[Funeral Hall in Kagamigahara, Japan by Toyo Ito | image source]

Also in Japan (and both featured in issue 027 of The Plan) is Toyo Ito's Municipal Funeral Hall in Kakamigahara, Gifu. The remarkably thin layer of sprayed-on concrete covers the funerary functions behind a highly transparent wall that overlooks a pond. The slender columns, some falling within the buildings and others outside, blend into the smooth, white continuous surfaces above. Roof drains are incorporated into some of the columns, (secretly) illustrating the potential in such a design gesture.

[BMW Welt in Munich, Germany by Coop Himmelb(l)au | image source]

Not as subtle as the two examples above, and technically not an undulating roof/column synthesis, per se, is Coop Himmelb(l)au's much-published design for BMW Welt, the carmaker's delivery building in Munich. A super-scaled "column" appears to support the massive, solar-panelled roof, like all of its energy collected into one swirling point. The glass- and metal-clad "double cone" is an exhibition and event space, the "architectural and communicational origin of the building." This last snippet from BMW seems appropriate in the context of this post, as the architecture makes a statement by fusing roof and support, horizontal and vertical. It attests to the power of such a maneuver, and foreshadows more to come.


  1. also in the works here at adrian smith + gordon gill architects is the masdar headquarters. much bigger scale but in the same spirit..

  2. dp - That's like eight BMW Welts in one!

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  5. There's another roof like that in Barcelona, Spain. It's a market and was design by a fanous catalan architect, Enric Miralles,


  6. Marcio - I thought of that one but opted not to include it as it has continuity of structure, but not surface. Nevertheless, it's a great building.

  7. This was an interesting dose of architecture.


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